Puerto Rico is still feeling the effects of Hurricane Maria after the storm barreled through the island more than a year ago. So, the community here in North Alabama came together to help buy the island a brand new emergency response vehicle.
“When Maria actually happened in Puerto Rico, we as a community were trying to find out a way to help out,” Huntsville business owner Yamil Lucena said.
Lucena grew up in Puerto Rico and knows people there are still struggling after the Category 4 hurricane swept through the island. That's why he wanted to find a way to help.
"People were like, ‘Well, let’s take water there and stuff like that.' But, the logistics behind all of that was going to be kind of rough because the airport was down," Lucena said. "We didn’t have the resources, so we all agreed on doing the truck."
Lucena set up a fundraiser through the Red Cross, and it took the community around 3 weeks to raise the $150,000 for a brand new emergency response vehicle. The truck will give the Red Cross access to hard-to-reach areas to provide food and assistance to those in need.
"Something that you provided, a dollar or a penny or whatever you provided now, is real and you were a part of that help," Lucena said.
Last week, Lucena, along with other organizers and donors, visited Puerto Rico to present the Red Cross with the truck.
"People in Puerto Rico are really thankful for this truck and now, fortunately it’s going to help more people in the future," Lucena said.
One donor says he feels good to be a part of something that will help those on the island whenever they’re in need.
"The beauty of this vehicle is the stamp on the side of the vehicle, ‘Donated with love and appreciation to the citizens of Puerto Rico or the residents of Puerto Rico by the residents of North Alabama,’" organizer and donor Rey Almodovar said. "That’s always going to be on the side of the vehicle for everyone to see, that we here in North Alabama care about them and that we love them."
Lucena says he's thinking about starting a second fundraiser to get another emergency response vehicle to Puerto Rico.